CLEVELAND -- There were plenty of questions about whether Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George would ever be the same after suffering a horrific leg fracture during an exhibition game for Team USA Basketball in the summer of 2014.
But those questions have been asked and answered by George himself, who has reemerged as the Pacers’ on-court leader and guided them back to the postseason for the sixth time in his seven years with the organization.
“I think the No. 1 thing that stands out is anybody can be great in the form of comfort, but when things don’t go your way and some adversity hits, how can you get back to the point where nobody thinks you can get back to,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said.
Cleveland Cavaliers take on Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of opening round of 2017 NBA Playoffs
James feels a comeback like George’s is representative of his work ethic and commitment to the game.
“There were probably a lot of people that said he would never get back to what he was before or able to do the things he was before, and it’s just a testament to him,” James said.
“First of all, it’s a testament to the docs who did the operation too that got him back to where he is today, but if your mind is not strong, then it doesn’t matter if you’ve got Dr. Andrews working on you. You won’t be able to recover. It’s great to see as a competitor, as a friend, someone I’ve had a lot of great playoff series and conversations with, seeing him back where he needs to be.”
Over his seven-year NBA career, George has averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game, but in his last three full seasons, particularly the last two years, he has averaged better than 21.5 points per game.
In postseason play, George has averaged 18.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 38.5 minutes over 63 playoffs games.
“It just shows you how resilient he is,” Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love said. “He’s one of the guys. It’s tough to say you expect that from anybody, but the effort he puts into the game, the way he works, there’s very few like him.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue added, “There and then some, and it’s great to see. I wish it wasn’t against us, but he’s definitely come back from a major injury. I’m happy for him because he’s a great guy. I’ve known him over the years, and just seeing someone go through an injury like that and be able to bounce back and even play at a higher level is great to see.”
Since the Pacers embarked on their latest rebuilding process, George has been the centerpiece of the franchise, consistently raising his level of play to the point where he is considered a top player in the league not just by his fans, but also, his fellow competitors.
“He had something to prove, which is very understandable kind of understanding where Indiana was the past year going into the summer, how he was developing and how much ground he was trying to make up from what he missed being injured,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said.
“You’ve just got to commend a guy like that, just going through what he went through and coming back to where he is now.”